Pingree Secures Bipartisan Appropriations Amendment to Advance H-2B Visa Process
WASHINGTON, D.C.— Congresswoman Chellie Pingree (D-Maine) helped to secure the inclusion of a bipartisan amendment to the Labor-HHS-Education Appropriations bill that is a first step toward making more H-2B visa available for seasonal businesses. The amendment would modify H-2B visa allocation to a quarterly disbursement and proportional distribution to ensure every certified business gets some number of the visas approved. A measure to increase the number of visas may be offered later on a separate appropriations bill. The bipartisan amendment was offered by Congressman Andy Harris (R-Maryland) with both Democrats and Republicans speaking in favor.
Pingree said in the House Appropriations Subcommittee mark up:
I represent one of those districts that—it depends greatly on seasonal workers and has been deeply affected by the challenges with the H2B program. I understand—I would say the most important thing that should be happening here as the other subcommittee chair Congresswoman Roybal-Allard mentioned this should be happening in Judiciary, we should have comprehensive immigration reform.
We should not have programs, as the chair mentioned, like this that could have any possible violation of law whether it’s about the wages or about recruitment or about how immigrants are treated, but the fact is in my district—in one of the oldest states in the nation, with never enough employees and particularly in the seasonal market where a lot of young people go back to college before its time for an inn or restaurant to close or a whole variety of seasonal businesses—this is a big issue.
When there are problems in this program, it is the role of the Department of Labor to make sure there is appropriate oversight, so I’m sorry to see about any violations, none of which I’ve heard about in my district. So I agree there are problems with the program, but the fact is I disagree on some of the suggestions that came through the Department of Labor.
In my district, I think most employers apply for this at 1 o’clock in the morning on January 1st because they are trying to get in the queue, even though we don’t use the workers until basically the second half of the year. So to say it would put us out of season doesn’t make sense, and the way the amendment is written—and I appreciate my colleagues work on this—is to just disperse them throughout the year.
I understand there are jurisdictional concerns but we have previously in this committee moved language that had DHS and DOL working together on this issue, and I encourage my colleagues to fix our broken immigration system and do the things we need to be doing. But in my district, this is the thing I hear the most about from so many employers who are about to go into our summer season, as you’ve heard other members say, with not enough workers and their small businesses not being able to be fully open or open for the entire season.
So I painfully oppose the chair on this and encourage you to vote along with this amendment.
A full text of Congressman Harris’s amendment is available below.